Womack and Johnson Make Top 10 Debuts

New Albums Help Narrow Gender Gap at Top of Country Albums Chart

Rascal Flatts have scored another No. 1 single, but the big chart news of the week is the narrowing of the gender gap on Billboard's list of Top Country Albums. For the first time in recent memory, half of the albums in the country Top 10 are by female artists.

Lee Ann Womack and Carolyn Dawn Johnson contributed to the statistic by delivering new albums that charted in the Top 10. They share the spotlight with new CDs from Loretta Lynn and Mary Chapin Carpenter and a platinum album Martina McBride delivered last year.

While Rascal Flatts reign on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks, newcomer Gretchen Wilson appears destined to reach the top spot with her debut single, "Redneck Woman."

On the albums chart, Kenny Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down remains at No. 1 for the 14th consecutive week. Womack's Greatest Hits debuts at No. 2, followed by Keith Urban's Golden Road, which stays in third place. Lynn's Van Lear Rose drops two spaces to No. 4, Toby Keith's Shock'n Y'all slips to No. 5 and Alan Jackson's Greatest Hits Volume II climbs to No. 6. Tracy Lawrence's Strong shows some muscle by clinging to seventh position. Carpenter's Between Here and Gone slips three spaces to No. 8, followed by Johnson's ninth-place debut with Dress Rehearsal. McBride's Martina rounds out the Top 10.

Several new CDs hit the country albums chart this week, including Willie Nelson's

Live at Billy Bob's at No. 27. Nashville Star contestant John Arthur Martinez arrives at No. 49 with his debut album, Lone Starry Night. Also charting are two compilations -- Country's 20 Classic Gospel Songs of the Century and Gettin' Rowdy: A Classic Country Collection.

With Rascal Flatts' nostalgic "Mayberry" hitting No. 1 on the singles chart, Wilson's "Redneck Woman" charges to No. 2 and helps knock last week's chart-topper -- Urban's "You'll Think of Me" -- to third place. John Michael Montgomery ascends to No. 4 with "Letters From Home" while Chesney and Uncle Kracker follow at No. 5 with their recent multi-week No. 1, "When the Sun Goes Down." Remaining in sixth and seventh place, respectively, are Lawrence's "Paint Me a Birmingham" and George Strait's "Desperately." Montgomery Gentry's "If You Ever Stop Loving Me" rises to No. 8, and Lonestar's "Let Us Be Us Again" falls slightly to No. 9. Toby Keith and his "Whiskey Girl" spend another week at No. 10.

New Nashville Star winner Brad Cotter's debut, "I Meant To," enters the chart at No. 42 as the week's highest-debuting single. Other debuts include Steve Holy's "Put Your Best Dress On" and Lonestar's "Somebody's Someone," a track from the band's upcoming album, Let's Be Us Again. Sherrié Austin also premieres her version of "Son of a Preacher Man," originally a 1969 hit for Dusty Springfield.

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